The Gift

By Nieriel Raina

"Legolas?"

Legolas jumped at the call from down below, hastily throwing a large cloth sheet over his work. His heart pounded. "Gimli?" he called back, wondering what the Dwarf was doing in Asgarnen. "Is that you?" He stood and walked to the balcony of his talan and looked down over the rail.

Gimli was staring up at him with a dry look. "No, it is Pippin gone and grown a beard."

Legolas blanched at the remark. "Do not remind me of that incident. It was not funny."

But Gimli was not laughing. "I am coming up," he called, looking far too serious.

Legolas's heart began to beat even faster. He threw a glance over his shoulder at his covered work, then looked back at the Dwarf beginning to climb the rope ladder. "No! Wait… Gimli, what are you doing here?"

The dwarf paused. "Legolas, I am coming up. Whatever you are hiding, be it a lady or some other such nonsense, I suggest you stash it away quickly."

"You know I have no interest in ladies," he called back.

Gimli looked up, his brows raised to his hairline. "Then I do not wish to know."

The blood left Legolas's face as he deduced Gimli's meaning. "That is not funny either."

Gimli kept climbing, grumbling as he came. "Legolas, there is something I must discuss with you. Whatever reason you are acting strangely does not compare with what I have to say. Trust me in this."

Legolas threw one more glance at the sheet, then sidled over and lifted it, carrying it from the room. He set it down in his sleeping chamber, and closed the curtain that was all he used as a door. He turned around to see Gimli heft himself up through the hole in the floor.

"You really need some stairs," Gimli huffed, breathing heavily from his exertion.

"Ah, but stairs cannot be easily lifted to prevent unwanted visitors. Pity I forgot to raise it." He threw a grin at his friend, but once more, Gimli did not smile. "What is it, elvellon?" Legolas asked, seeing in his friend's eyes a great sadness.

Gimli said nothing for a moment, walking over to a chair and lowering himself into it. Sensing that if the dwarf needed to sit to speak his peace, it must be something serious he had come to say. Legolas sat on the seat across from his friend.

"I had come as a surprise and stopped in Emyn Arnen to give my greetings to the lord and lady there, only to learn…" Gimli swallowed hard and looked away.

Legolas felt the blood drain from his face. "Eowyn? No, say it is not so! Say she has not…" he trailed off, unable to finish.

The White Lady of Ithilien had gained his deepest respect, not for vanquishing the Witchking, but for throwing herself into the healing of her new home. He glanced towards the chamber, a dread that his gift would not be needed settling over him. "Was there nothing that could be done to help her?"

Gimli grimaced. "Faramir sent for Aragorn, hoping the King's hands could do something to stop it, but the healers…" Gimli shook his head. "They said it would be too late. Nothing could stop it." Gimli sighed, and dragged a foot across the floor.

Legolas followed the motion, his heart heavy. He noted his friend's boot stirred the shavings he had forgotten to sweep away in his haste to hide his work. He sighed and stood, grabbing a wisp of broom to sweep the offensive reminders away.

"What were you doing when I arrived, Legolas?"

But Legolas shook his head. "It no longer matters."

"Show me."

Legolas set aside the broom and led Gimli to his chamber, drawing aside the curtain so they could enter. He whisked the sheet away, revealing what had been hidden underneath — a carved rocking horse, with real horse hair for its mane and tail. It was nearly finished. Legolas had only to finish smoothing a few places, before whitewashing it and giving it a good polish.

Gimli gave a low whistle of appreciation and moved around it, taking it in from all sides. "I did not know you did this sort of work," he murmured.

He shrugged. He had too many years on his friend to have shared everything with Gimli. "You've seen me whittle before."

Gimli shook his head. "This is not whittling, Legolas. This is craftsmanship!" The dwarf cast him a look that Legolas interpreted to mean: 'How dare you hold something like this from me!'

Legolas returned the look with a sardonic smile. "I am a wood-elf," he said.

"As if that explains the fact you are a master woodcarver!"

"And," Legolas continued, "I have lived long under the trees. There are many things you do not know about me, Gimli. Not because I purpose to keep them from you, but rather, it never crosses my mind to speak of such things."

Gimli stretched out his arms to the small horse. "This is a masterpiece!" Gimli's eyes blazed with a light Legolas had rarely seen before. "Of all the things you have never thought to tell me, this is one you should have! This rivals some of our best efforts at toy making!" Gimli's thick arms crossed over his chest as he glared up at Legolas. "We need to talk more," he added, looking away.

The words warmed him and he smiled. "I am sorry, Gimli. It has been long since I have worked with wood in this manner. It is a skill I began to learn in childhood and developed when I was kept home by the healers after a severe injury. Since then, I have played at it from time to time."

"Play?" Gimli grunted. "PLAY! HA!" The dwarf was shaking his head and pointing a finger at the horse. "THIS is not playing! This is a masterpiece!" he repeated, dropping to his knees to run a hand over the horse's back.

"Thank you, elvellon. Though I fear it will not be needed now."

His words drew Gimli's gaze, and the dwarf stood, frowning. "It will be needed. If not by Faramir and Eowyn, than some other parents."

Legolas felt his heart lighten at the words and nodded. "You know me well." If Eowyn lost her little one, then indeed, he would find another family to gift the horse.

A groan came from the main room, followed by the sound of someone lifting themselves into his talan. Legolas stepped out of his chamber to meet whoever had come, Gimli on his heels. He came face to face with Aragorn, who seemed startled at Legolas's sudden appearance.

"Legolas! Is Gimli—" The man broke off as Gimli stepped from behind Legolas. "Ah, Faramir thought you might come here." Then a smile broke across his face. "I have good news."

Legolas grinned. "Then you made it in time?"

Aragorn's eyes twinkled with mirth. "Indeed. He was not early at all! Fine, strapping boy they have."

"But she had nearly three months to go!"

"And she hardly looked as if she were expecting a wee one!" Gimli added.

Laughing now, Aragorn plopped into a chair, making himself comfortable. Gimli took the other seat, and Legolas leaned back against the wall, folding his arms on his chest and crossing an ankle over the other.

Aragorn explained, "It is not unheard of for an expectant mother to be wrong in her calculations, or for one to show little sign of the child within her until the last months. Eowyn suspected she was with child months before she told Faramir, but since she had no sickness and gained no weight, she assumed she had been wrong. So it was a surprise even to her when she began having pains a couple days ago." He sobered. "If her calculations had been correct, and the babe had come so early, there would have been nothing I could have done to save him. I am very relieved that was not the case. Those two have had enough grief."

They sat in contemplative silence for a time — until the relief and joy began to radiate through Legolas's spirit. He gave a loud whoop as he straightened, and then dashed to his chamber.

"Legolas, what—"

He heard Aragorn, but Legolas did not stop to explain. He no longer had leisurely months to finish his gift. He lifted it and returned to the other room, a huge grin spread across his face. "Come now, I shall need some help to get this finished." He handed a fine plane to Aragorn.

Gimli was already into the spirit. He had found Legolas's tools and was pawing through them, whistling a merry tune.

A few days later…

"My lady?"

Eowyn looked up from her son, held secure in the crook of one arm and smiled. "Legolas! Gimli! Come see." She beckoned them enter with her free hand.

"Should you be up?" Legolas asked, looking concerned.

Eowyn laughed, looking pointedly at the divan upon which she sat. "This is not quite up, Legolas. Though among my people, the women are often up the same day and cooking dinner for the new papa." She laughed again when Legolas paled.

"You should at least have your feet up," Gimli declared, grabbing a cushion and placing it under her feet with care.

"Thank you, Gimli."

"Well, let me see the wee lad." The dwarf sat beside her and to Eowyn's surprise even asked to hold the baby. "There is a fine lad. Yes he is, and OH! What a grip!" The babe had latched onto one of Gimli's fingers with a tiny fist.

Legolas moved to look over Gimli's shoulder, smiling, but looking a bit too fidgety to Eowyn's mind.

"Would you like to hold him, Legolas?"

The elf started, jerking his head to meet her eyes. "No, I shall just look."

Unable to resist teasing her friend, she cast a surreptitious wink at Gimli. "But Gimli is holding him."

"He is closer to the ground. Less chance of the babe being hurt if he is dropped."

"I heard that." But Gimli was too involved with talking to the baby and making faces at him to act offended at Legolas's jest.

Slowly, the elf lowered a finger to lightly caress the downy hair on the baby's head. "So small," he whispered. "I have not seen a child so young in many long years." He looked up at her with a smile. "He is a beautiful baby, my lady."

Eowyn's heart felt warm. She had never seen Legolas look so tenderly at anything, not even the newborn pups he had helped deliver on his last visit. She patted his hand. "Thank you, Legolas. Would you like to know his name?"

The elf's eyes widened, as if he suddenly realized he had not asked. "Yes, please!"

She smiled. "We named him Elboron."

Legolas smiled. "That is a good name, my lady." Then his expression changed suddenly. "Oh! I almost forgot!" Then he nearly ran from the room, leaving Eowyn and Gimli with bemused grins.

He returned a few minutes later with Faramir. "…beautiful boy," Legolas was saying as they entered, carrying something bulky, wrapped in a cloth.

Faramir beamed, wearing that look of a proud papa, the one that melted her heart. He caught her eye and winked at her, and she felt herself blushing. Ducking her head to hide her burning cheeks, Eowyn bit her lip but glanced back up, however, when Faramir gasped.

Tears filled her eyes as she beheld the gift set before her. Such toys were rare in Gondor, though in Rohan, tots were put on the backs of wooden horses as soon as they could sit on their own. But none like this! This was a work of art, surely, not a toy.

"I hope little Elboron enjoys it, my lady. I styled it after Shadowfax." He grimaced. "I know it is a poor copy, but perhaps he will overlook it."

"It looks just like him," Eowyn whispered, slipping from the settee to kneel on the cushion Gimli had placed. She ran a hand over the beautiful wood, and laughed as her fingers swept through real, white horse hair for the mane. "It is beautiful!"

Legolas beamed, then blushed when she tugged him down and planted a kiss on his cheek. "Aragorn and Gimli helped!" he gasped out, pulling back and giving Faramir a wary look.

But Faramir was too busy beaming at his son in Gimli's arms.

Eowyn laughed. "I will be sure to thank Aragorn when he brings Arwen to see the baby." She scooted back to the divan and leanred up to place a kiss on the dwarf's cheek as well. Gimli just grinned at her, then continued his conversation with little Elboron.

"Come, Legolas. Sit. You must hold the baby," Faramir told him.

"But I—"

Faramir pushed him forward, and Eowyn pointed at the settee. Legolas sat, though he seemed to sulk. Then he glanced at the baby in Gimli's lap. "Very well. Hand him to me."

"Careful, Legolas. No, no, no! You have to support his head, and his back! Do not—"

But Legolas ignored the dwarf and cradled the baby expertly in his arms. "I have held a baby before, even if it were long ago."

Eowyn laughed, casting a look at her husband. He looked surprised at the elf's ease with holding their child. "Why then were you hesitant, Legolas?"

He sighed, but said, "Perhaps you might find it a bit silly, but it seems whenever I hold a baby—"

Suddenly Legolas blanched, and threw a disgusted look up at Eowyn. He lifted the babe from his lap, leaving a very large, very wet spot behind. "I get wet upon," he finished.

But no one heard him as laughter and loud guffaws from Gimli filled the room.

The End